Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar with Shreeji | Bombay 1919

The metallic brakes of the steam engine squealed and the chimney huffed smoke into the Bombay sky as the Madras Mail, the only train connecting the city to the southern part of the country announced its arrival at the Victoria Terminus station with a loud shrieky whistle. It was 1919, Shri Martand Manik Prabhu Maharaj’s first visit to the port city.

Bombay (now Mumbai) was not only the foremost trading centre of British Presidency, but was also a thriving hub of art, music and culture.

When Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar – the doyen of Hindustani Classical Music learnt that Shreeji was in town on an official visit, he invited Shreeji to the Sandhurst Road branch of the Gandharva Maha Vidyalaya that he had recently launched. A great patron of music that he was, Shreeji not only obliged, but, on his insistence, also agreed to stay at the Vidyalaya for a few days, during which stalwarts like Ustad Rehmat Khan Saheb, Ustad Abdul Kareem Khan, Pandit Bhaskarbuwa Bakhale and Vidhushi Kesarbai Kerkar performed in hazri before him and sought his blessings.

Musicians lined up for Shreeji’s darshan, waiting for an opportunity to perform in front of him. Among the regular visitors was Narayan Shripad Rajhans, popularly known by the stage name ‘Balgandharva’, whose music was greatly liked and appreciated by Shreeji. It is said when Balgandharva performed, everyone, including Shreeji, would lose sense of time and the sabha most of the time would continue until the wee hours.

On the concluding day of Shreeji’s stay at the Maha-Vidyalaya, Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar offered Sangeet Seva and his performance impressed Shreeji so much that he placed a garland of flowers around Panditji’s neck.

Overwhelmed by Shreeji’s appreciation, Pandit Paluskar, in his thanksgiving speech said that he considered the garland of flowers received from Shreeji as valuable as a navaratna haar (a garland of gems). Interrupting him midway, Shreeji called him and placed his own navaratna haar around Panditji’s neck.

“Why consider a garland of flowers as a navaratna haar? Instead, wear one.”
This great gesture from Shreeji moved Pandit Paluskar to tears. He was speechless and did not know how to thank Shreeji.

Very few know that the navaratna haar which Shreeji presented to Pandit Paluskar had actually been gifted to him by Jagadguru Shri Narsimha Bharati Swamiji ji – Shankaracharya of the Shringeri Sharada Peetham, as prasaad, when he visited Maniknagar during Shri Sadguru Manik Prabhu Maharaj’s era. When both the brothers – Manohar Prabhu and Martand Prabhu, who were very young then, were respectfully presented by Shri Prabhu himself before the Acharya for his blessings, the Acharya most thoughtfully gifted a rudrakhsa maalaa to Shri Manohar Prabhu and a navartana haar (a necklace of gems) to the younger brother – Martand Prabhu. This probably was Jagadguru’s way of appreciating the inherent yogic vairagya (dispassion) of the young Manohar Manik Prabhu and the sparkle of spiritual majesty that he saw in his three-year-old brother, Martand Manik Prabhu.

It is not without reason that Maniknagar is truly called the “The Mecca of Music”, where musicians receive rare honour. Music is the second name for the Divine at Maniknagar.